‘Dandelion’ First Look: KiKi Layne Sings and Spirals in The National-Scored SXSW Premiere

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‘Dandelion’ First Look: KiKi Layne Sings and Spirals in The National-Scored SXSW Premiere
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KiKi Layne, breakout of “If Beale Street Could Talk” and other indies, sings and performs in Nicole Riegel’s SXSW premiere “Dandelion” as a Cincinnati singer/songwriter in a downward spiral. IndieWire shares an exclusive first look at the film here ahead of its March 10 premiere in Austin at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival. Riegel previously directed 2021’s “Holler,” a blue-collar drama starring Jessica Barden.

Here’s the SXSW synopsis for “Dandelion”: “Dandelion, a struggling Cincinnati singer-songwriter in a downward spiral, takes a last-ditch-effort gig at a motorcycle rally in South Dakota where she meets Casey, a guitarist who walked away from his dream long ago. As Dandelion joins Casey’s nomadic group of struggling musicians, the kindred spirits make music together and strike up a whirlwind romance. The experience moves Dandelion from a narrow view of success to a deeper appreciation of her artistic journey, and the discovery of a voice that is authentically her own.”

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The movie features Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National (“Cyrano”) writing the original music and score for the film, with Layne doing her own singing and also executive-producing the film.

“‘Dandelion’ is about my journey as a filmmaker told through the lens of a musician,” Riegel told IndieWire. “Since I was a little girl, the world has told me in loud and quiet ways that men hold the cameras and guitars. Fault and doubt are more easily found in women (and their work) in art, whereas men are perceived as trusted geniuses. I also find that all artists – women and men – can feel stifled by today’s narrow commercial standards of success. My musical heroes have always carved their own path: boygenius, Elliot Smith, Joy Oladokun, Tracy Chapman, and Angel Olsen.

“Like my first film ‘Holler,’ ‘Dandelion’ follows an Ohio woman facing an uncertain future in pursuit of seemingly impossible dreams. To me, music, like all art, is a way of living and not a destination. It’s something you wake up and do every day. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way, but it led to me stretching my voice and finding my own path. Process and journey are important themes in the film, so a lot of the film’s story is told through the process of songwriting.”

Riegel added, “I love having talented friends hang out and jam at my house in Nashville. I tried to foster that same sense of community in the filmmaking process through making songs around campfires between takes and exploring National Parks during our down time. That’s the spirit of the film. I still can’t believe that I got to make music with one of my music heroes, Aaron Dessner. Aaron and his brother, Bryce, began working on the film with me long before casting or financing.”

Layne said that in terms of this film, “People can expect a more grounded representation of many of the internal struggles that artists go through, especially as we get older and our confidence and belief in ourselves waiver. This film really highlights the songwriters’ journey, and I am grateful that in this role I got to truly be a songwriter and help contribute to the music in the film as well. I wanted to tell this story because it is very close to home, being that I am also from Cincinnati and was a musician and singer/songwriter growing up. This film allowed me to reconnect with my hometown and my love of creating music. Pushing past my fears of sharing my singing voice in a more public way.”

“Dandelion” is currently seeking U.S. distribution. The film co-stars Thomas Doherty, Melanie Nicholls-King, Brady Stablein, Jack Stablein, and Grace Kaiser.

“Dandelion” / courtesy SXSW
“Dandelion” / courtesy SXSW
“Dandelion” / courtesy SXSW
“Dandelion” / courtesy SXSW
“Dandelion” / courtesy SXSW

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